For the last few months thousands of farm workers in South Africa's Western Cape region have been on strike.
Cape is one of the most profitable agricultural regions in the world
with its wines, grapes and apples filling supermarket shelves in Britain
and around the world as part of £850 Million export industry. However
the around 500,000 mainly black agricultural workers remain working in
dreadful conditions and for very low pay. The mimum wage is the
equivalent of just under £5 a day and most workers do not get much more
then that and many less.
The workers often are poorly housed on
the farms themseves as tenants. Human Rights Watch listed serious
problems such as exposure to pesticides and lack of access to clean
water. Sick pay is often not paid and farmers managers have moved
against union organisation.
Since november a rolling wave of
strikes has spread demanding a minimum wage of the equivalent of £10.65 a
day. Roads have been blocked, Hundreds of strikers have been arrested
and three strikers have died. So far most of the Farms have refused to
meet this demand and refuse to collectively bargain and in a latest move
hundreds of stikers have been sacked and evicted from their tenancies
on the big estates.
Nosey Pieterse an activist with the BAWUSA union said ""I do not know how many have been sacked but in one instance, truckloads
of workers were dismissed. In Wolseley, trucks drove into townships and
dumped the clothes of farmworkers that had been left behind on the
The Strikers are not only figting the estate owners,
they are fighting the ANC led governement that has refused to raise the
minimum wage or even properly enforce existing minimum wage and tencancy
rights. This should once again show those on the left in Briatin who
belive South African governement is in someway progressive that the
leadership of the ANC and the South African Communist Party have become
brutal agents of capital.
The strikers are also fighting the
multinational retailers that have benefited massively from the poor
wages in Western Cape to maximise profits on wine and fruit.
and several other unions are involved in these strikes and they have
put out a general call for a boycott of South African wine and fruit to
put pressure on this largely export led industry. Nosey Pieterse says
"The government should be forcing the farmers to the table but it is
not," said Nosey Pieterse, secretary general of the Black Workers'
Agricultural Sector Union, (Bawusa). "Our only weapon left is for the
foreign retailers to pledge that unless the conditions are addressed,
they will no longer import South African products."
the striking South African workers we can and should picket the big
supermarkets in solidarity with South African workers and to help
ensure strikers demands are met and sacked strikers re-instated.